Momma Says the F Word

Profanity, parenting, and ridiculously verbose descriptions of absolutely nothing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sometimes I do crazy shit

So the other day I was thinking about my future. I think about it once in awhile. As in, what do I want to do when I grow up? What career path will I be interested in once these shorties are off at school, not wanting to acknowledge me as their mother after spending the first five years of their lives trying to crawl back inside of me?

One of the things I'm interested in doing is becoming a paralegal. I know that feels a little Sally Struthers-infomercial of me, but it's something I'm interested in. I can write, I'm detail-oriented to the point of qualifying for some kind of diagnosis, and I'm organized. And paralegals are in demand. And it pays decent for what it is, IMHO. So I was dicking around online looking at the program offered by our local technical college, thinking about whether I would really want to try to get a paralegal certificate. And then I randomly clicked on the technical college's job openings. And then I found a posting for a grant writer person. And then I applied for the job, without thinking about it.

The job was posted in October, and they were looking to fill it by January. I figured the position was probably already filled and the whole thing was just a silly little exercise in looking up my previous employer's contact information and filling it into an obnoxious online application.

I was incorrect.

They contacted me the next day and said they were "delighted to see my application come through" and asked me to submit some writing samples.

Oh shit.

Then I had to think about it. I have been thinking about it pretty much non-stop. The short version is that I have decided I will see the process through and not make an actual decision about this until I have a real decision to make. Who knows if it will ever come to that. Who knows. My spouse and I have decided that it's good to at least participate in the process as an exercise in keeping the rust from growing too thick on my professional gears.

But of course what I'm really ruminating on is whether or not I would actually go back to work full-time if I had the chance. Which I may or may not.

How much time do you people have?

Because really, it's just about the most complex decision in the world. The big, looming factor is finances. Our finances suck. I've been pretty open about that. Big K and I are okay with the fact that our finances suck, but we are admittedly growing increasingly weary and nervous. We've worked really hard to keep this ship afloat for these years of SAHM-induced penny pinching, and I'm going to be really honest here and say I would just like to go shopping. I know it's bullshit compared to all the stuff that really matters, but OMG my tennis shoes are stained and torn and I wear a size 13 which is not cheap and man I'd like a new pair. We're not going without in any real meaningful way and our new house is bomb shack, but I think that any reasonable person knows what I mean here.

This job pays decent. Significantly less than what I was making when I bailed on corporate life 6 years ago, but an okay salary that isn't totally embarrassing. And good benefits, although I don't really need them courtesy of my spouse.

Unfortunately, I've spent some time researching childcare costs, and I am horrified to learn that with 3 kids in various stages of needing childcare, I would only clear a few hundred dollars a month after I pay for all the childcare. Which, for the record, is bullshit. How do all you people pay for childcare? I read recently that Wisconsin ranks 4th in the nation for childcare costs. That's a bitch. A real bitch. Obviously as my children enter various stages of school in the next couple years that math starts to tip more favorably in my direction, but I wouldn't really see a significant paycheck until all 3 kids are in school full-time. The few hundred bucks would eventually increase to a thousand bucks and then some day when Phook can babysit for her siblings in the summer (when the hell is that, even???) I'd actually see real dollars.

Which is, in and of itself, a pretty significant argument for not going back to work until all 3 kids are in school full-time.

The thing is, I think I'd actually like this job. If I had actually been looking for a job on purpose, I'd want this one. So it'd be nice to have it when I am officially ready to go back to work. But I'm not sure if it will be there then. Which makes me think it might be a little bit worth it to try to get the job now and clear very little money for a couple years so I have a job I actually like locked up. For my, um, future. (That rarely considered thing that it is.)

And right after I go through that nice logical little thought process, I start bawling. About the children. And putting them in childcare. And missing shit. And not being there for them as much. And turning our nicely-paced family life into this crazily rushed fly-by-night operation. For little more than nothing.

My God. I can't even think about this without wanting to self-immolate. It is so complex and difficult and bullshit. And right now, it's even imaginary. It's not like I have a job offer in my lap just yet.

I want to be clear that I do not have any fear about how my children will "turn out" based on what comes of this. I am 100% confident of the fact that my children will do well with 2 loving and committed parents, regardless of our employment status. I feel perhaps freakishly assured that this will not "screw them up." We are, and will continue to be, committed to these kids above all else and they will thrive. They are adaptable and securely attached and they would adjust to childcare settings in due time and it would just become a new normal for them. Not losing any sleep over that.

The devil is in the details. Every year I go out to the garden with a packet of bean seeds and painstakingly help chubby fingers plant a very crooked garden. Every birthday party has something (many somethings) special and homemade by me. We go to libraries and children's museums and parks and campgrounds not for special events but as our every day life. And I (and presumably they) love this every day life. Can I be a good mother without that? Yes. But it feels like I'm being skinned alive to think about it.

It is just back to that old question, the one that I have been kicking around like a can in my brain for years now. At what point do I accept that my children will naturally begin to separate from me at some point anyhow, and it might be time to pursue financial security and long-term planning instead of clinging to my SAHM life like it can really last forever? If this opportunity becomes real, might it be time to shift that gear?

I was working on putting together my writing samples today and I had to write a summary of why I was submitting those samples. I was dreading it. But you know what? It actually felt pretty good. Really good, actually. To tap into that professional side of my brain and spin the great yarn of why I am an ass-kicker who would be cheap at twice the price. Because you know what? It's fucking true. I am an ass-kicker of a professional. I remember. I am really good at shit and I am an ass-buster. You wouldn't need to do a reference check to get that information. You could literally call anyone who has ever met me--haters included--and get that information back. I am a good person to employ. There is, I think, a little part of me that wouldn't mind re-entering that space. I might psychologically benefit from being an ass-kicker again in the non-cupcake-making realm of my skill set. I am not as awesomely patient as I once was at home with these kids. Because I am tired. I am oh so tired. I have been wiping noses 24 hours a day for 6.5 years straight and, well, I admit I am feeling some burnout. I admit that I am. Sometimes I feel like I just need a little break from being in this house with little kids, but when I get that little break, I'm no longer refreshed by it. I am impatient and upset again very soon after re-entering their presence. Which I think defines burnout. Which is deeply upsetting. It is also January and the windchill here right now is something like 200 below zero, so we can attribute a little of the burnout to that. But not all of it. Not all of it.

And we're right back to crying.

Because OMG I only get one shot at being with these little kids. Because they will eventually outgrow it. Even if I don't. Jobs will be there. Two-year-old's expire. I am wailing. I am just wailing.

I think you all officially know--if you got this far in my drivel-y brain dump--that I am feeling extremely conflicted. I know that those of you who have been reading this blog for years probably know that I respect all women and their choices and that this isn't a mommy wars post. It's a Big W vs. Big W post, and I post it as an ode to all women, all mothers, and the bullshit that is making choices where there are important things to lose on either side. And to the bullshit that is childcare costing almost the entirety of a professional salary. And to the bullshit of being classified as a working mom or a part-time mom or a stay-at-home-mom because to that I say screw off...those categories do not exist. We are all just moms and it is really, really hard. Any mom worth her stretch marks is 100% mom in all the ways that really matter.

And I love you and I need therapy.

And there has been a stomach bug mowing people down in this house recently, which makes everything I would normally say come out like I've doused it in gasoline and set a match to it.

And I need therapy.

Maybe pray that they hate my writing samples and I never hear from them again. Or maybe pray that they love them. I wish I knew which to ask for.


Blogger HEATHER said...

W, since this is a grant-writing position, does it have to be done in office? Could this be something you could telecommute or work from home with only one or two days in the office? These are all questions to ask if you are in fact offered the job. I am firmly in the camp of stay at home with your kiddos if that counts for anything. At the end of your life you will not regret spending your time with family. As for hard to fit shoes, why not look for your brand and size on Ebay. You may be able to find a great deal.

1:25 AM  
Anonymous melinda said...

Oh wow. What a heavy choice, if you do end up having to make it. You are so talented, both as a writer and as a parent, that I really believe that you will rock whatever path you decide to take. When I went back to work FT, I was 7 months pregnant w/ Kid#2 and had never worked more than 20 hrs a week since becoming a parent. I was TERRIFIED -- I never was particularly pulled toward being a SAHM personally, but I WAS petrified that I wouldn't be able to manage working FT and parenting well and that, in going back to work, I would turn our family into a ball of stress. Ultimately, that didn't happen... it is super hard to balance things, but we're happy and figuring out how to make it work.
Now... that all being said...we do live in a very different area, where daycare is dirt cheap and does not eat up a big portion of my paycheck. That makes a big difference.
Bottom line: you are going to make the best decision for your family, because you are The Boss. And if you make a choice and it turns out to suck, one way or the other? Welcome to the club. This does not have to be an all or nothing situation. You take the job and end up hating it? Adios. You don't take the job and end up regretting it? Then the next time you see a job ad you like, the decision of "to apply or not to apply" will be a little easier?

I'm sorry... did that heading say "Leave your comment"? I thought it said "Leave 8 paragraphs of assvice."

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your blog...
This is a great post and one that I think most mothers have running around in their most days. Do what is best for you & your family and go with your gut. It will all work out.
Let Go & Let God

8:27 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Can your writing be done at home part-time? I think it's great you're getting back into the "working" world, but I have to just say, from my point of view (working full-time out of the house), I miss my two little ones like CRAZY during the day and would give anything to be able to be home with them full time. I, too, think about all of the little things I am missing, and am constantly reminded of them by other sahm's with their "how-can-you-let-someone-else-raise-them" comments. It hurts when things are said like that, especially when they aren't "raising them", but honestly, some days, I'm glad I'm working on me also. My kids love both of us to death, and they are pretty well-rounded. Yes, they have some of the bad habits they learn from school/daycare, but it's nothing we can't nip in the bud. Try not to let the mommy guilt take over. I have my moments where I let it try to consume me, but I think about how I'm helping contribute in other ways to their lives by working and making things a little bit easier on our finances, as well as having a happier husband who doesn't stress out as much when he sees my paycheck deposited. Yes, daycare is quite the expense. It doesn't seem bad on a monthly basis, but when we total it up at the end of the year it's like HOLY CRAP! WE PAY THAT MUCH? I'd definitely see if you could maybe do some of the work from home. And, honestly, if you end up not liking it, then you can always go back to the way it was before. You'll never know until you try :)

I've read your blog for awhile (don't worry, I'm not a weirdo lol), and you seem like an awesome mom! You do what you feel is right in your gut.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous ap said...

I'm going to chime in on the "can this job be done from home, at least part-time" chorus. And if it can, perhaps you could hire a less expensive type of child-care provider (ahem, teenager) to come over to your house for a few hours a few afternoons a week while you bust ass working in another part of the house. Your employer is happy because they get the awesome output from you and you get the best of both worlds.

But if this is a ludicrous suggestion then I join you in the wailing and gnashing of teeth over such a hard decision. Good luck!

11:26 AM  
Blogger Big W said...

I love you people. Keep it coming. I love your insight. (And the work from home idea did occur to idea about likelihood of that but I will definitely ask about those types of options if I get that far.)

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Amy S said...

I think you're getting some good ideas from these other people about how to perhaps get some flexibility in the job/home combo, should you decide to do that. And I know big decisions like leaving or entering the workforce--for whatever reason--need some heavy thinking, and can be very emotional.

Yet here's what that part of your brian that's making this hard for you is missing -- it's not an either/or. The whole "chubby fingers in the garden, camping, going on walks as part of the everyday" thing is NOT sole jurisdiction of stay at home mamas. Okay, maybe doing those things from 9-3 is, sure. But my family does a TON of cool, good-for-the-soul things like this all the time as part of our everyday. The arboretum and state parks are like our backyard. we make a luge run in our actual backyard. We snowshoe. We garden. We birdwatch. We make teepees out of yard waste, for cripes sake! We do all sorts of lovely bonding, time-wasting, creative things on a routine basis--and you KNOW where I work! So, stop mourning those things. Just shift them to different hours of your day. There will be such lovely gifts that can come of a new lifestyle--for your whole family--and you don't even really know what those are yet. You're cataloging what you think you'll lose, because you KNOW those things. Don't forget about the gifts that might come your way that you don't know about.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Becky M said...

I think Grant Writing is always something that is out there and available as a job - if you're not 100% ready to take the leap yet, I don't think you'd be missing out on a career stepping stone if you wait a few years. Just my two cents. :)

3:54 PM  
Anonymous melinda said...

Dude. Me again. I don't know your friend Amy S., but I think I might want to buy her a drink. What a cool way to frame things!

4:24 PM  
Blogger Big W said...

Amy - I do appreciate your perspective on still being able to do those precious things, and I of course do know that those things still happen in families where both parents are working full time outside the home. And Big K has made the same point as you that I fixate on what I might lose but fail to fully imagine what I could gain. I think it's because it's a world I've never been to before. I just have such a raging phobia of being constantly frazzled and that is the primary thing I imagine when I think about being employed full-time. But the other part of me knows that there any many happy families out there with 2 working parents who manage to enjoy outside employment and parenting. I even sometimes observe that my friends with jobs outside the house tend to do MORE directly with their children because they know to treasure the time that I sometimes take for granted. I just have a very hard time envisioning myself there, knowing how balls-to-the-wall I get with everything I do. I imagine myself working a 60 hour workweek to meet deadlines and then coming home and staying up till 3 a.m. making a homemade pinata and ultimately turning into a really tired and angry bitch. Which perhaps demonstrates a lack of imagination on my part, but when I look in the crystal ball, that's what my brain conjures up. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I don't know if it's fear of the unknown, or my gut sending me the right signal for me.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thinking of you and this decision, Big W! I think finding out your options is a good place to start. Then think and pray about it and go with your gut. I interviewed with the company I'm at now 3 times before I actually took the job. When the timing was right for the change I knew and felt at peace with the decision. It was good to have the resume and interview practice even though I didn't take the job on the 1st 2 rounds. Hope to see you soon!


11:42 AM  
Blogger The Pisarzewicz Family said...

You are inside my head: "Sometimes I feel like I just need a little break from being in this house with little kids, but when I get that little break, I'm no longer refreshed by it. I am impatient and upset again very soon after re-entering their presence. Which I think defines burnout. Which is deeply upsetting."

7:30 PM  
Anonymous BW said...

This post makes us all reflect on our own situations. Being a working mom is freaking hard. But so is being a SAHM, which I think I can honestly say, since I get bits of both, having summers off. Thinking you will bring crazy into your life isn't quite'd really just be trading crazy ;)

9:56 PM  

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